Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, "Confident Computing", for more solutions you can use to make your life easier. Click here.

How can I keep someone from contacting me in email?

//
How can I keep someone from contacting me in email or instant messaging?

Severing communication is an unpleasant necessity at times. For personal or legal reasons you may want someone to stop contacting you or someone you know. The rub is that you’d like everyone else to be able to contact you as before.

We can’t control what other people do, but there are some ways we can either make it more difficult to be contacted, or automate the process of ignoring the contact attempts.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

A new email address

For email, the most radical solution to keep someone from contacting you is to change your address. Specifically:

  • Create a new email address or email account.
  • Begin using it as your primary email address.
  • Tell all your friends, businesses and acquaintances.
  • Don’t tell the person you’re attempting to block.
  • Stop paying attention to the old email address.

That’s a fairly harsh solution, because as you can see, it means that you tell everyone from whom you want email to change how they contact you. And of course, some stragglers won’t get the message, and you’ll lose contact with them when you stop paying attention to that old email address.

Automate ignoring them

Stop!A more realistic solution, perhaps, is to automatically ignore them. Set things up so you never have to see the email that they send you.

Most email clients have the ability for you to set up rules or filters that will take action on an email when it arrives. So use your email program to set up a rule that says, in essence:

  • if mail is from this person
  • then delete it immediately

The person can continue to send you email, but you’ll never see it, and they’ll never hear back.

If your email client doesn’t have rules or filtering built in, then you might check with your email provider. Many offer web-based access, and quite often that includes rules or filtering as well. By setting up a filter directly with your ISP, the email you filter out will never even be downloaded.

Accept email from your address book only

As another almost draconian measure, many email services as well as some mail clients have a spam filtering option that allow you to reject email that isn’t from an address in your address book. This means you’ll accept email only from people you know. Set that up and remove this person’s email address from your address book, and their email will be rejected (whether or not they hear about it depends on your particular email provider).

There are serious drawbacks to this approach, since there’s often a lot of legitimate email that arrives from addresses you don’t know beforehand, such as confirmations of online purchases or other business correspondence. Heck, it could be someone you just met but haven’t yet added to your address book.

But it can be an extreme solution.

Treat it like spam

If much of what I’ve just described sounds familiar it should; these are similar to many techniques used to fight spam. Fighting spam is, when you think about it, all about keep someone from contacting you.

In both cases you’re receiving unwanted email. The only difference is that in this case you know who’s sending it.

So as a last resort, you could just mark the unwanted email as spam. Eventually your spam filter should “learn” that email from this person is unwanted and filter it automatically for you.

The down side is that you’re telling the spam filter that “email from this person is spam” – which may be used to prevent that person’s mail from being delivered to others as well.

Podcast audio

Play

20 comments on “How can I keep someone from contacting me in email?”

  1. I use the delete key, myself. Really, there’s very little else to be done in the common case.

    The irony is that these letters would stop completely shortly after they stopped working. But, sadly, enough people *still* fall for it that the spammers & scammers see it as worth continuing.

    • Unfortunately, all it takes is for one person out of a million to fall for the the scam letter, and the scammer is ahead of his game. Darn that one person.

      John

    • This person is stalking my husband and we are married and Natalie will not leave my husband alone on his email what should we do make her stop

      • See the article you just commented on if you’re talking about email. If other things, then perhaps you need to talk to the police or other authorities.

  2. What happens to SPAM emails that are filtered out of your account. Is there a delivery failure email to the sender or does it just delete the email and never inform the sender that you did not and will not receive any more emails from them?

    • It’s just deleted. The sender is never informed. There is so much SPAM that sending delivery faillure messages to the senders may slow down the whole web. Also, the sender address is almost always forged, so, there is no use to send any message to the apparent sender…

      • Plus, if the notice goes to an actual sender, he might be able to figure out that it’s a valid e-mail address, which makes your e-mail address more valuable for selling.

  3. What happens to filtered spam depends on the email system and filtering solution. The *right* thing is to do nothing – just delete it. Any kind of response will tell the spammer that they;ve reached a valid email address, and will result in MORE spam, not less.

    • I have this problem with a contractor that did me wrong and damage my house and I’m taking him to court he feels He don’t owe me for damages on my home I refuse to pay the last payment because of paying a contractor to do the remainder work that had to be done . Anyway he had my email and is having Adult Sexual Nude pictures on my phone sent to me saying sexual things very disgusting how do I get it to stop Block … it never happened until all this went down. He’s very sick .

      the things

      • Read the article you are commenting it. It includes everything we have on the subject of blocking an unwanted sender.

  4. somebody is sending me emails and i am not interested to read them or not BUT i want him to know that i am not receiving anything from him.
    could you help me please i really need him to know that i am not reading his mails.

    • Set a filter to send a “Message has been automaticaly deleted” reply. Make sure that you make it absolutely clear that it’s an automated reply.

  5. someone is harrasing me at my work’s e-mail also on my work cell. I know who it is but when I confronted this person they deny the phone calls & e-mails and now state that I hacked into their computer. I have printed all the e-mails. This has been going for for several years and need to put a stop to it as it is emotionally draining. Can I file charges against this person?

    I’m afraid I’m not a lawyer. You should contact one, or your local law enforcement to see what’s possible and practical.

    – Leo
    06-Oct-2008
    • I discussed a similar situation with our local police. The officer told me to send them one more communication saying that I was legally requesting that he never contact me again. I went one step further, and in that message, said that the local police department sergeant told me to send this message to him. Be sure to keep a record proving when you sent the communication. In my case, since all of his contacts were by e-mail and by text message, I made my request by e-mail and sent a text to his phone asking that he read the e-mail. I kept copies of both messages.

      He did send three messages over the next two months, which I ignored, then he finally moved out of state. He probably realized that I was ignoring him, and knew that I had shown his threats to the police.

      The thing is that if it continues, you need to be willing to consult a lawyer. He knew that if I was willing to show the police, that I’d be willing to see a lawyer.

  6. How can random people (or bots) continue to IM me on yahoo messenger even though I have it set to ignore anyone who is not on my contact list? This is the 3rd week of me receiving anonymous messages when I log in despite my “ignore” settings? Help would greatly appreciated.

  7. I had a human resources woman, go into my gmail. Somehow anything from her is gone. I did not threaten her.
    I only stated my unhappiness with her hiring practices. Now all emails with her are gobe. Is this legal. I need them for discrimination court.

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.